uch of the folklore associated with the Elder tree has ties to Christian lore. In an attempt to suppress earlier pagan beliefs, the Elder was used as a representation with a negative persona.
An example of this is the story of Judas Iscariot. Judas was the apostle who told the Romans where to fine Jesus before his crucifixion. Realizing what he had done and feeling his guilt he hung himself on an Elder tree. Reference to this story can be found back as far as the 14th century. Although to consider the size of a Elder tree (rather small) it is a bit confusing as to why Judas would chose it as the his tool to end his life.
Another story which has ties to Christian lore, tells how the Elder was one of several trees whose wood was used to make the Cross on which Christ was crucified. Because of this act the Elder was said to have been punished for its part in this act. Its’ size and stature forever to be effected for the part it played. An old couplet states this reference best: “Bour tree – Bour tree; crooked rong, Never straight and never strong; Ever bush and never tree, Since our Lord was nailed to thee”.
The Elder is also strongly connected with magic and witchcraft in many countries. This association therefore lends itself to many folktales. One example is the story about Hylde-Moer or the Elder-tree Mother. Hylde-Moer was said to live in the Elder tree and her task was to watch over the tree. If anyone attempted to cut the tree down and use any of its wood for any purpose (especially in the making of furniture) Hylde-Moer was said to follow them home and thus haunt them. There is a story of a woodcutter who once cute down an Elder tree in order to make a cradle for his newborn son. Each time the child would be placed in the cradle, Hylde-Moer would appear and pull the baby by its’ legs. This action of course made the baby cry and would allow him no peace or anyone else until he was picked up out of the cradle. As in any tree, if one wishes to cut an Elder, one must always ask permission. In the case of the Elder, after asking permission, one must wait until Hylde-Moer grants consent by remaining silent.
Another folktale is that of the Rollright Stone Circle. The Rollright Stone Circle is near the village of Long Compton in Oxfordshire. It is said that these monoliths are the remains of an invading Danish King and his men who had come to conquer England. As the king and his men were approaching Long Compton, an old witch appeared and gave them a challenge. The challenge was as follows: “Seven long strides shalt thou take; an if Long Compton thou can see, King of England thou shalt be”. The village itself is hidden behind a low mound which is locally known as Archdruids barrow.
As the King had taken his seven strides he still could not see the village, so the witch called out again : “As Long Compton thou canst not see, King of England thou shalt not be. Rise up stick and rise up stone, For King of England thou shalt be none. Thou and thy men hoar stones shall be, And I myself an Elder tree.” With those words spoken, the King became the known as the “King Stone”. A lone stone which stands out alone. A group of five upright stones huddled together are known as the “Whispering Knights” while the stones forming the circle itself are known as the “King’s Men”.